This is a quick overview of the Council of Bishops and how it serves the United Methodist Church. There are three main bodies that govern the United Methodist Church. The General Conference, the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council. The Council of Bishops consists of all active and retired bishops in the United Methodist church. In 2020, the church has 66 active bishops. The Council generally meets twice a year with additional meetings as needed.
What is a bishop?
Eachbishop oversees the mission and ministry of an episcopal area based on the direction set by General Conference and the local context. Bishops are elders elected by members of a jurisdictional or central conference. Bishops in the jurisdictional conferences in the United States are elected for life. In the central conferences in Africa, Asia and Europe, the term of their service as bishops varies and may require re-election. Bishops provides spiritual leadership to the global denomination as well as for the episcopal area of one or more annual conferences to which they are assigned.
Each bishop provides day-to-day leadership for the episcopal area for a four-year term. Within their areas, bishops preside over annual conference sessions and appoint ordained and licensed clergy to local churches and other places of service, including as district superintendents. By Discipline, bishops may serve two terms in one episcopal area and can be assigned for a third for missional purposes. Bishops are then assigned to a different episcopal area by their jurisdictional or central conference. Retired bishops no longer serve an episcopal area but continue to be a part of the council.
What does the Council do?
Together, as the Council, they provide guidance in carrying out the church’s mission in the world as well as sharing in teaching, equipping and advocating for justice and unity. Additionally, the Council strives toward relationships with churches of Methodist and other traditions through ecumenical partnerships. The Council of Bishops also assigns bishops to the governing boards of general agencies and other ministerial bodies. The Council is led administratively by an executive committee, which includes a president and other officers. Every four years, the Council selects one bishop to present the episcopal address at General Conference.
In summary, the Council of Bishops provides spiritual and temporal leadership to the overall church. By doing this, the Council of Bishops seeks to strengthen church to carry out its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- Find out more about the Council of Bishops, including a search for your local bishop.
- Visit the official Council of Bishops website.
For questions or more information, Ask The UMC.